RANGOON — Locals in the Kachin State capital Myitkyina and Mon State’s Mudon Township have raised objections to planned statues of Burma’s independence hero Gen Aung San in the two locations.
Construction has already begun on plinths for the statues in the town centers of Myitkyina and Mudon but civil society groups complained that they cannot accept the statues while there is ongoing conflict in Kachin State and the federalism and equality pledged by Gen Aung San in the Panglong Agreement of 1947 remains unfulfilled.
The Kachin Political Cooperation Committee (KPCC)—a four-member committee of Kachin political parties comprising the Kachin Democratic Party, the Kachin State Democracy Party, the Lhaovo National Unity and Development Party, and the Kachin National Congress—filed a complaint to the Kachin State chief minister on Monday.
“What our Kachin people want [the government] to do as a priority is peace,” said KPCC spokesperson Jaw Naw Seng. “We are seriously in need of peace and federalism—which were the pledges of the General.”
According to the KPCC, the 15-foot plinth sits in an area of 300 square feet and the statue itself is being constructed at a local monastery.
The KPCC is still investigating whether there are plans to install the statue as part of the Union Day celebrations arranged by the Union or state government or the ruling National League for Democracy (NLD) party.
Gen Aung San and ethnic leaders signed the Panglong Agreement in Shan State exactly 70 years ago on Feb. 12 and pledged to regain Burma’s independence from Britain together. Since then, Union Day is celebrated annually on Feb. 12.
“The statue was started just a week ago, we have learned it will be finished ahead of Union Day,” said Lum Dau, a spokesperson of the KPPC.
“We are finding out who did it. So far, we have only met the workers at the construction site,” he added.
Gam Ja, a Myitkyina resident, also spoke against the statue and lamented the plight of Kachin people who have suffered from armed clashes over the past years.
In Mon State, the Mon Young Monk Solidarity Organization and Mudon Township’s Mon Youth Association issued statements against a statue to be placed in Mudon at the conclusion of the Mon Youth Forum on Feb. 1.
The Mudon Township Youth Association in a complaint to the chief minister of Mon State said the statue should be erected only after the federal Union—a pledge of Gen Aung San—was established.
The Irrawaddy was not able to obtain comments from the chief ministers of Kachin and Mon states.
But U Nyan Win, an NLD spokesperson, told The Irrawaddy that he had no idea about the statue and therefore had no comment.
Lawmaker U Saw Tun, who represents Mudon Township in the Lower House, said that he was attending Parliament and had no knowledge of the statue. But he said that the NLD does have a committee to construct statues of the late general.
Currently, tensions run high in Kachin State with increasing number of people displaced by ongoing clashes between the Burma Army and Kachin Independence Army (KIA).
Kachin communities and political parties have criticized the NLD government for keeping silent as the number of displaced persons increases, despite the government’s hosting of the 21st Century Panglong peace conference in August last year and the next stage of the conference taking place later this month.
Meanwhile, the New Mon State Party (NMSP) has fallen out with the Mon State security and border affairs minister after the minister turned down the NMSP’s application to conduct an armed parade at the Three Pagoda Pass on Mon National Day, which also falls on Feb. 12.
Translated from Burmese by Thet Ko Ko.